Interview with art brut pop surreal artist Saša Jantolek

Saša Jantolek, born in 1968 in Rijeka, is an art brut pop surreal artist with a rich portfolio consists of various interest including comic strips, drawings, paintings, stage sets, objects, ironic conceptual or “realistic” straw dolls (Mardi Gras festivity dolls), poetic illustrations and dolls. A constant in his artistic expression is the integration of painting and sculpture, the humorous, creative and lucid, poetic and grotesque. By borrowing fragments from various artistic styles, techniques, and methods – along the lines of childish expression, Mediterranean sensibility, neo-expressionism, ludism, outsider art, and art brut – he has developed a characteristic style and aesthetics recognized by his growing audience. Jantolek´s drawings are inspired by life’s sequences, intimate fragments from the lives of its performers, oftentimes bizarre, and always emotionally close and perceivable. He began his independent work as an artist in 1990. Since then, he has had several independent and group exhibitions. Saša is a member of HDLU (Croatian Association of Applied Artists) in Rijeka and HDLU Istria, and ULUPHU (Croatian Association of Visual Artists of Applied Arts).
Hello dear Saša, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
I never cared if what I am doing is good, likeable, génius, bad or terrible, I did not think whether I wanted to become and artist or not, but since my childhood it seemed it was easier and more natural for me to explain how I feel and what I think through art. Since my childhood there was an obvious path.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
The main influence on me had Mediterranean area. Opatija, the town where I live, Istria peninsula, the island of Cres, places where are enough inspiration for several lifetimes. Apart from this environment, I was influenced by croatian authors like Vasko Lipovac, Zvonimir Lončarić and others ... and most of the films of Aki Kaurismaki, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders and many others.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
During summer my working day starts at 8 o´clock in the morning, with few breaks, up to 3 PM. After that, I get something to eat and then I go back to the studio and I work till 8-9 PM. In the winter I work a bit less. One might think its a lot of work, but my work is more like a lifestyle, a life where I am adding or substracting to create something. I hope I succeed in the end to interest someone in what I do.

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I am a self-taught artist. Although my whole life I was drawing and painting, I was never seriously dedicated to it ... since 10 years ago. Before my art career I was working as a postman in my town for 14 years. Then I decided to quit my job and become a full time artist.
I think that education is still necessary because when you are educated in art you come up with some results faster and better. I would say the best would be to combine - being art educated and still learn as self-taught.. I think that the most important is your desire. If something inside you makes you to work hard enough, you'll always get the results, even if enrolled in school or struggled in you’re own way, it is important to work at any age, anytime and anywhere.
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

The hardest part is to describe my own style or meaning of my art works. During all these years I worked on myself and my work and I don’t know where it is all leading. I started from the comic book, carving, painting and surely the last was sculpture and surrealism in which I am sure that this is what I’m pleased the most for now, but I don ´t know where I will be tomorrow (or maybe I know  :) ).
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
My working day, as I said, starts at 8 o'clock. In the morning I continue to work on art works from previous day. Most of my painting surfaces are items that were thrown from the sea, the various boards that are already art itself. These items give me the most creativity, imagination. It helps to create a mindset that can eject the stories that we don’t know where they came from and we are not aware that somewhere is such a life.

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I´m doing sculpturing and my main material is wood. I use a linden tree, sheet, various discarded objects, acrylic and wood processing machinery. As for the drawing, I draw on MDF by using pencil.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
For now I'm fine like this, and we will see what future will bring :)
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
The rougher work - working on a wood - I do in workshop in place where my parents live. I draw and paint in my studio which is located in the medieval town in Kastav. The studio is located in a house which is old over two hundred years and I think that nothing has changed since then, it’s located in the city center. Once in that place there was a stall. It’s quite pleasant and inspiring, I’m there for five years.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
Since I work as a full time artist, my biggest disappointment is a fact that not every success depends on my hard working. The quality of work is not sufficient for success. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but here where I live is no proper criticism and praise which is why the quality and bad works receiving equal importance.

I had a lot of challenges, several competitions, puppets and set design for a puppet theater where I was very pleased to participate and I hope it will be even more challenges such this in the future.
What’s the worst advice you ever received in your art career?
The worst advice was at the beginning  - not to start an art career because you can´t make a living of it.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
I made a picture book called "Jackie stories”, it is a mixture of my stories (11 of them), photos of my installation and my artwork. I worked for a few years and I was very happy when I finished it. Now I'm working on another picture book, in fact it's a comic book, which is called "Insect pests and other vermin". I hope to finish it soon. I would like to also continue in the direction of illustrations, installations and my stories. Some bigger goal for me is definitely a puppet theater for adults.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
The advice would be – don’t wait too long to get ideas come out, like I did. Don’t listen to advices but proceed full steam ahead. It’s not for sure that you will succeed, but at least you'll do what you love. The years, where do you live and what is the policy in your town are not relevant. I regret that I didn’t start earlier all of this work, but I'm happy I did it.

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I have no other hobby or something to relax because this is really enough for me and it satisfies me enough. I hope that it will last long and that I will be able to work on my art career whole the time. I hope that I woudn’t have to look for another job.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
My works can be viewed on: Facebook, website, YouTube.

Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
Good luck to everyone :)
Thank you dear Saša, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)
By contributor Linda. September 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.